Jose Soto (Abstract 1)
Influences of Trait Anxiety on Emotion Regulation Selection and Physiological Response
Hanley, K. E., and Soto, J. A.
We examined the influence of trait anxiety on the selection of strategies to regulate emotion during a stressful speech task and the subsequent effectiveness of that strategy. Ninety‐seven undergraduates with a range of trait anxiety were asked to deal with their anxiety in anticipation of an evaluative speech task by choosing to write about one of three topics corresponding to the three emotion regulation strategies of reappraisal, distraction, and venting. Self‐reported anxiety, sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity, and parasympathetic nervous system activity (PNS) were measured before, during, and after the writing task. All participants displayed a stress response from baseline to the speech instructions (increased SNS and decreased PNS activity). Participants higher in trait anxiety were more likely to choose venting or reappraisal relative to distraction. Trait anxiety moderated the physiological response from post speech instructions to post regulation. For individuals with higher levels of trait anxiety, use of all emotion regulation strategies was associated with a continued stress response (no SNS or PNS change). For individuals with lower levels of trait anxiety, choice of venting and distraction was associated with a nonreactive response (i.e., decreased SNS and PNS), while choice of reappraisal was associated with a relaxed response (i.e., decreased SNS and increased PNS). Implications for the role of high trait‐level anxiety in selection and effective utilization of emotion regulation strategies are discussed.